EU diplomats have been called back from their summer break for emergency talks on the crisis in Egypt. This comes amid reports of more violence in the country, with more than 20 policemen reportedly killed in an ambush.
Ambassadors from the bloc's 28 member states gathered in Brussels on Monday, a day after European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commssion President Jose Manuel Barroso issued a joint statement saying the EU would "urgently review" its relations with Egypt.
The two leaders called on all sides in Egypt to exercise maxium restraint and return to political dialogue.
"The violence and the killings of these last days cannot be justified nor condoned. Human rights must be respected and upheld," the statement said.
There was speculation ahead of Monday's meeting of the EU's Political and Security Committee that the bloc could move to impose a joint ban on the export of weapons to Egypt, an idea floated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a television interview on Sunday.
However, an unnamed EU diplomat told the AFP news agency that this would be"less of a decision-making meeting, more a question of looking at the next steps."
So far, an agreement has been made to convene an emergency meeting of the bloc's 28 foreign ministers in Brussels on Wednesday.
As EU ambassadors gathered to discuss the crisis, the violence in Egypt continued on Monday, with reports that at least 24 policemen had been killed in an attack in the north of the Sinai Peninsula. Security officials said the policemen died after the minibuses they were travelling in were hit by rocket-propelled grenades near the border town of Rafa.
Meanwhile, the circumstances in which at least 36 detainees died as they were being transported between prisons late on Sunday remain unclear.
Security officials said that the Muslim Brotherhood supporters, who had been arrested during clashes in Cairo's Ramses Square over the past couple of days, died after police fired tear gas in an attempt to free a guard who was being held hostage by the detainees. The official MENA news agency reported that trucks carrying the detainees had come under attack by gunmen attempting to free the prisoners.
The Reuters news agency, though, quoted a legal source who said the men had died of asphyxiation due to the cramped conditions during the journey.
More than 800 people have been killed in clashes across Egypt since a "day of rage" instigated by supporters of ousted former President Mohammed Morsi last Wednesday to protest the forcible dispersal of two sit-ins by security forces.
Morsi's supporters and the military have been at loggerheads since the army ousted the democratically elected Islamist president and installed a new civilian government. This came after a series of mass protests against Morsi's one-year-old administration.
pfd/tj (AP, AFP)